I visited a school in Claygate, Surrey. I’ve been to Rowan Prep School a couple of times before and I have always had a good time. Firstly, the teachers in the school are very friendly and so are the children. These two things always go together – happy teachers, happy children.
Secondly, at this time of year Rowan Prep School invites children from other schools and the whole day is like one big party. We even have hot dogs in the garden!I did a talk, drew and read some of my books and we all made books and pictures.This year the theme was the jungle, so we sent Puffin Peter to have a look at the jungle, to see if he can find new friends.I was planning to show you one or two pictures, but the problem was, that I can’t choose just one picture.The children were from Year 1 and at the beginning I thought that my idea to do a collage is a bit over ambitious.It turned out, that I was wrong.The children really enjoyed it and they worked so hard and they created amazing pictures.Alisha did a book with two double spreads.Here are Puffin Peter and Puffin Paul looking for …. a MONKEY! Here is the monkey jumping from the page.
On my way home, on the train, I thought how nice it was to sit in the garden with the other teachers, looking at children running and playing together. These children from different schools didn’t know each other a couple of hours ago, but now they were playing, drawing and making books together.
Then I read an email from Nicola Davies. It was a poem written by Nicola in response to the government’s policy on refugees.
The day war came there were flowers on the windowsill
and my father sang my baby brother back to sleep.
My mother made my breakfast, kissed my nose
and walked with me to school
That morning I learned about volcanos,
I sang a song about how tadpoles turn at last to frogs
I made a picture of myself with wings.
Then, just after lunch,
while I watched a cloud shaped like a dolphin,
At first, just like a spattering of hail
a voice of thunder…
then all smoke and fire and noise, that I didn’t understand.
It came across the playground.
It came into my teacher’s face.
It brought the roof down.
and turned my town to rubble.
I can’t say the words that tell you
about the blackened hole that had been my home.
All I can say is this:
war took everything
war took everyone
I was ragged, bloody, all alone.
I ran. Rode on the back of trucks, in buses;
walked over fields and roads and mountains,
in the cold and mud and rain;
on a boat that leaked and almost sank
and up a beach where babies lay face down in the sand.
I ran until I couldn’t run
until I reached a row of huts
and found a corner with a dirty blanket
and a door that rattled in the wind
But war had followed me.
It was underneath my skin,
behind my eyes,
and in my dreams.
It had taken possession of my heart.
I walked and walked to try and drive war out of myself,
to try and find a place it hadn’t reached.
But war was in the the way that doors shut when I came down the street
It was in the way the people didn’t smile, and turned away.
I came to a school.
I looked in through the window.
They were learning all about volcanos
And drawing birds and singing.
I went inside. My footsteps echoed in the hall
I pushed the door and faces turned towards me
but the teacher didn’t smile.
She said, there is no room for you,
you see, there is no chair for you to sit on,
you have to go away.
And then I understood that war had got here too.
I turned around and went back to the hut, the corner and the blanket
and crawled inside.
It seemed that war had taken all the world and all the people in it.
The door banged.
I thought it was the wind.
But a child’s voice spoke
“I brought you this,” she said “so you can come to school.”
It was a chair.
A chair for me to sit on and learn about volcanoes, frogs and singing
And drive the war out of my heart.
She smiled and said
“My friends have brought theirs too, so all the children here can come to school”
Out of every hut a child came and we walked together,
on a road all lined with chairs.
Pushing back the war with every step.
It made me sad and I did a picture. A picture of a chair.